Happy Monday! What a way to end last week by having fun in the mud while helping the threatened Western Snowy Plover. I joined forces with Elkhorn Slough staff, Point Blue Conservation Science bird biologists, and a group of about 20 volunteers, as we walked through the mudflats creating footprint indentations that Snowy Plovers can use as nesting sites. Snowy Plovers nest on open bare ground, either close to driftwood or a grass clump. Since these birds scrape the ground to create a small indentation, the footprints will provide many possible nesting sites for them to use during this season; all they would need to do is line the indentation with pieces of oyster shells, pebbles, and other debris found in the mudflats.
The mud stomp took place at the Moss Landing Wildlife Area where mudflats are exposed during low tide, and due to tide gates the mudflats will stay exposed for the duration of the Snowy Plover breeding season. The tide gates get closed and prevent ocean water from coming in and out as the tide rises and falls. Snowy Plovers are also found across the street at the Moss Landing State Beach, where they nest on the ground in the sand dunes. Due to humans visiting beaches and other locations where these birds nest, these birds are constantly being disrupted and their populations in most areas have declined. Most people do not know when they are disrupting nest sites, because Snowy Plovers are very small and pale colored and they blend in with the sand. Therefore, it is important to pay attention and read signs posted along our beaches, as many will have information and regulations about the wildlife in the area.
I love visiting beaches and wildlife areas, and the Snowy Plover Mud Stomp event helped me realize how vulnerable some bird species are to human disturbance and the importance of following regulations while visiting these places to prevent disturbance that can be harmful during the breeding season.